The Ruskin Heights/Hickman Mills Tornado

It was late afternoon on May 24, 1957 and the sky was angry with sick puke-green "mammalian" clouds hanging down everywhere. John's dad was trying to keep the car on the road from the gusty winds. John and several of his friends were also in the car listening to "Lisbon Antigua", "Canadian Sunset", "My Prayer" and "Mockingbird Hill" on the crackling car radio. John's dad was headed to work at the drive-in theater in Lee's Summit, Missouri where he was the motion picture projectionist. John and his friends worked in the concession stand of the drive-in often referred to as "the passion pit".

At first, it looked like it might just be another windy night at the drive-in, but that was not to be. It quickly became apparent that something was wrong. For some reason, everyone climbed on the roof of the concession stand to get a better view of what was going on.

Suddenly, the turbulent sky had a very quiet, very clear half round area form just on the horizon. This half round looked somewhat like the area under a rainbow, but there was no rainbow that night...only death.

Just as suddenly, a cone shaped object began to pierce down from the top center of the clear area. It continued downward and there was no doubt what it was. Soon the tornado touched the ground and, just as quickly, large objects began to be thrown around and power transformers began to explode in bright green colors. Hell was here.

The tornado didn't come to the little concession stand that evening, but stood it's ground destroying the entire town of Ruskin Heights and much of Hickman Mills. Hundreds of people died that late afternoon and only concrete slabs were left where houses once stood. Ambulances would be heard throughout the night. Even three days later, the damage was still just being understood and more volunteers and medical supplies were still needed. Throughout the greater Kansas City area high schools let out students to help in the recovery.


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